An article in the Daily Mail last month reported on ‘cosmetic’ surgical procedures that are illegal in the UK, or considered too dangerous, being offered in Turkey to foreign clients.
One procedure covered in the report was hymenoplasty or ‘virginity repair surgery’. Clinics offering the procedure, often targeted women who may be ‘about to marry for the first time’.
Virginity testing and hymenoplasty are illegal procedures in the UK and forms of harmful practice. They are carried out with the intention of ‘checking’ or ‘preserving’ a woman or girl’s virginity.
Virginity is a term used to describe the state of never having had sexual intercourse. Some families, communities and individuals wrongly hold the belief that virginity is linked to a woman or girl’s worth and can equate to the ‘purity’ of a woman or girl.
It is wrongfully believed a girl or woman may bring ‘shame’ or ‘dishonour’ onto a family or community if she is not perceived to be a virgin when she marries.
We have chosen not to share the original article, as it reinforces a number of negative stereotypes, suggesting that such practices only affect certain communities, when they can affect anyone, regardless of culture, religion, background or ethnicity.
However, it is important to challenge the existence of these surgeries being offered abroad.
Hymenoplasty has been banned in the UK because it is a harmful practice and a form of ‘honour’-based abuse. It is known as an ‘extra-territorial’ offence, meaning that an offence may be committed if a UK national or habitual UK resident is taken out of the country for the procedure to be carried out. The crime carries a potential five-year prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine.
Savera UK CEO and founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “Hymenoplasty is a harmful practice and an abuse of human rights. The fact that these surgeries are offered abroad presents the risk that individuals can be taken there, against their will, and be forced to undergo these procedures.
“Hymenoplasty is illegal in the UK and anyone, including ‘medical tourism agencies’ and surgeons should be held accountable for facilitating these abuses of human rights.”
To find out more about Hymenoplasty, virginity testing and the laws around them, read our factsheet.